Colton awoke Sunday morning at 3:00 AM in a cold sweat. For a minute the dream or whatever it was didn’t stop. The picture in his head was threatening and foreboding. After Mildred had left last night she’d gone straight to Alice’s house across the street. She’d told her everything. Alice had insisted they call the police. Mildred had agreed but wanted to talk with Sandy first; she knew him and believed she had an obligation to Pop to try and protect his only grandson, plus, Sandy had been kind and nice to her. However, the monster named Colton had treated her with disdain. Anyone could tell he was the devil, mean as hell, and therefore should be locked up.
Still in his underwear, Colton went to the bathroom, then the kitchen to make coffee. He had no doubt they had to act today, as soon as possible. Waiting until tomorrow would give Mildred time to slip a noose around their necks. Hopefully, she hadn’t already.
He drank coffee at the dining room table and pondered a hurried plan before waking Sandy. Colton tip-toed into his friend’s bedroom and with a deep and powerful tone meant to imitate a pro-prosecution judge’s voice, announced, “Sanford Brown, I hereby sentence you to life in prison.”
Sandy’s eyes popped open instantly. He plopped up on his elbows. “What the fuck are you doing?”
“Reality check my friend. Get up. No time to waste.”
After peeing and slipping on yesterday’s clothes Sandy joined Colton over coffee at the dining room table. “Man, I’d just fell asleep when you shouted in my ear. The thought of killing Mildred is wrong and I can’t be a part of it.”
Colton was the master at manipulating Sandy. Okay, pack your bags and take Pop’s Buick back home to South Farrell Street. And, don’t forget to be at court tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM. Do you want me to give you a wake-up call? Oh, by the way, tell the DA and the judge I said hi.” Sarcasm seemed to always work.
“Shit man, stop that. You know I don’t want to go to jail, but there’s got to be another way.”
“I’m listening. Take your best shot, naming at least one other, workable, alternative.” Colton knew Sandy had no viable idea.
Sandy walked to the kitchen and returned with the near-empty coffee pot. He poured it into Colton’s cup. “I’ll make some more.”
“Thanks.” Against his better judgment, Colton decided to give Sandy some rope. “I tell you what. Why don’t you go see Mildred and be totally honest with her, don’t hold back. Tell her what we’re planning unless she cooperates.”
Sandy interrupted from the kitchen. “Man, that’s not being honest, you said we were going to kill her.”
It was time for some lying. “Okay, I’ll change my mind if you can convince Mildred to fully cooperate. But, just know, the van is going to get awfully small with her tagging along.”
Sandy poured water into the coffee maker, then leaned against the sink. “You’re not pulling my leg are you?”
“Hell no. I’m trying to do everything I can to save our asses.”
“Money, luggage, Alice. What else does Mildred need to do to cooperate?” Sandy started to ask Colton how he planned on withdrawing money at her bank without being video-recorded, but let it slide.
“Don’t worry, I’ve made a list and will explain it to her if you convince her to cooperate. But, here’s the deal, either way, you do not leave Mildred alone. Just send me a text of her decision and I’ll walk over. Again, don’t let her out of your sight. Agreed?”
“Agreed.” Sandy said, wishing he’d never met Colton Lee Atwood.
At 6:00 AM Sandy knocked on Mildred’s back door. As expected, she was already up, in the kitchen, washing the breakfast dishes.
She walked to the door. Sandy saw her worried face and forced smile. She didn’t unlock and open the door but stared through the glass panels. “Good morning. What you got?” Sandy had brought a frozen Caramel Apple Creme Pie he’d purchased at Walmart.
“Got you a pie. You can share with Alice if you want.” He didn’t know why he’d brought Alice into the conversation. Maybe as a subtle threat but that was more Colton’s style, not his.
For a minute, Mildred, her face expressionless, didn’t move. However, probably unaware, she mumbled, “uhhhhhhh.”
“Mildred, we need to talk. I promise it’s in your best interest.” An icy wind was wearing on Sandy’s patience. As the wrinkled-faced woman continued staring, he wondered what he would do if she turned and walked away. Return to Pop’s? No, Colton said this was life or death. He had the answer, he’d bust the door down. That would show Colton he was serious.
The dead-bolt clicked and the door opened. “Come in. Have you had breakfast?” Mildred couldn’t resist being nice.
Sandy rejected Mildred’s offer, sat her across from him in the den and played good cop to Colton’s bad cop. Surprisingly, after repeating the offer and highlighting Colton’s propensity to violence, Mildred relented. “I’ll do whatever you ask me to do. I may be old but I’m no idiot, and I’m not ready to die.”
Sandy sent Colton a text: “she’s agreed to help.”
Colton immediately responded. “Don’t let her out of your sight. I’ll be there in fifteen to twenty minutes. I’m packing and bringing the van.”
Sandy and Mildred were sitting at the kitchen table when Colton walked in. After removing his jacket, he didn’t waste any time. “We need all your cash. Where is it?”
The old woman stared at the table weighing her options. None were good.
“Damn it, look at me.” The pistol stuck inside Colton’s belt caught her eye. Mildred complied. “That’s your one and only break. From now on, when I ask you something, if you hesitate, I’ll punish you.”
“Come on man, she’s agreed to help.” Sandy stood and faced Colton, but knew better. “Hey man, did you bring my electric toothbrush?”
Colton ignored Sandy’s question and inched forward toward Mildred, removing his Sig Sauer P226. “This is your last chance old lady, where’s your cash?” Colton was confident Mildred would have hidden some amount of legal tender, probably in two or three places.
This time, Mildred stood. “I’ll show you. Follow me.” Colton complied.
Three thousand dollars was in her late husband’s shaving bag hidden behind a dozen pairs of shoes at the bottom of her closet. Sixteen hundred dollars was stuffed inside a Raggedy Ann doll sitting at the center of her chest-of-drawers. A thousand dollars was in a zip-lock bag floating inside the toilet tank in the hall bathroom. The mother load was ten thousand dollars Mildred had ignored until Colton had bored his dark eyes into and asked if she had a safe.
Cash wasn’t the only thing she kept locked in the old Mosler floor safe hidden behind a row of long dresses in the master bedroom’s walk-in-closet. Colton ignored Mildred’s last will and testament, two deeds, and a burial policy. What caught his attention was the folder containing copies of twenty-eight Certificates of Deposit. They were purchased from three local banks: First American Bank, Palatine Bank & Trust, and Ben Franklin Bank of Illinois. Colton used his phone’s calculator to add the face values of the twenty-eight CDs: seven hundred twenty nine thousand dollars. None had the same maturity date. The closest was February 15th, the longest was July 1st, 2024.
“We can go tomorrow and I’ll cash them in. But, there’ll be an early withdrawal penalty on each of them.” Mildred said, standing in the closet doorway. To Colton, the old lady was being too cooperative. She knows if we let her inside a bank she’ll be able to signal for help. Yet, three-quarters of a million dollars was tempting. Colton made a mental note to work on a plan to steal this money.
“Sandy, help Mildred pack two suitcases. I’ll be at the kitchen table writing out a script.” Both men believed it necessary for her to call Alice and tell her she’d had enough of the snow and cold and was going on a trip, probably to Florida.
To Sandy and Colton’s surprise, the old woman was convincing, both on the phone and when Alice came to say goodbye. With the men hiding in the pantry, Mildred had calmly resisted her friend’s attempt to come in for a short visit and a cup of coffee. “Dear, you know I’d like to but Rev. Mahonge has agreed to meet me for confession at 7:00, and I’ve still got a ton of things to do.” Alice would know the reverend since both women were members of St. Colette Parish.
“I understand. Now, you be careful. Call me at least once a week, and know I love postcards.” Colton thought Mildred was bolting when she opened the back door. Instead, she gave the obese, half-bald Alice a long hug. Hopefully, she hadn’t whispered something in her ear.
Mildred did equally well on three short audio recordings. When Alice requested the weekly calls, Sandy had whispered, “use voice memos to record Mildred calling Alice and leaving a message.” Colton had liked the idea, which, to him, meant Sandy assumed Alice wouldn’t be alive to make the calls.
Sandy shut off the lights, locked the back door, and loaded two suitcases in the rear of the van while directing Mildred to buckle-up in one of the two couches.
After stashing the bag of cash in an overhead compartment, Colton steered the van onto Ruskin Drive, wondering how in Hell he’d gotten into such a fucking mess.